Embattled math teacher will not return to next year, as she and the district have reached an undisclosed settlement agreement.
The veteran teacher at used the ethnic slur to refer to one student, as well as discriminated against students because of their gender, ethnic group identification, race and religion,
The following is a statement released late Tuesday by the district:
The La Cañada Unified School District has reached a settlement agreement with Mrs. Gabrielle Leko that will result in her separation from the District at the end of this academic year.
"While this sort of outcome in a personnel matter may not be perfect, the Board unanimously believes that this settlement is fair and best serves the interests of all students, the District, Mrs. Leko, and the community, allowing the District to move forward and focus on the many challenges facing our educational program," stated Scott Tracy, Governing Board president.
Given the findings of the District's rigorous investigation into the complaint against Mrs. Leko- that she did violate District policies in her conduct towards students- the Board has structured an outcome that protects both our students' academic interests by allowing her current students to finish their math courses as planned, as well as the interests of those students who want to seek a change. The Board has achieved this goal while mitigating the financial impact, potential liability, and extended litigation time and resources to which the District would have been subject.
Under the California Education Code, school boards are not legally permitted to simply dismiss a permanent (tenured) teacher. Instead, they must initiate a dismissal process, which entitles a tenured teacher to an extensive, lengthy procedure, culminating in a hearing before a Commission on Professional Competence-a third-party administrative panel. This hearing results in a binding decision on the issue of termination. This process can consume enormous time and resources and has unknowable financial costs and final outcomes. As such, the District has entered into this settlement agreement with Mrs. Leko, which mitigates the potential financial impact, manages known costs, and creates the desired employment outcome.
The Board appreciates that any payment amount in a settlement is not immaterial; however the costs incurred as a result of this settlement would be exceeded by costs and resources that would be devoted to a long term adversarial hearing process without a guarantee of ultimate success.
While we are constrained from commenting about the specifics of the settlement by legal obligations to Ms. Leko, we have negotiated a settlement that achieves the District's goals of serving our students and community, while protecting the financial interests of the District.
Moving forward, the District and the Board are committed to strengthening the lines of communication by which we engage in an ongoing dialogue with the community, to supporting excellence and professionalism in our staff, and ultimately to providing the best possible education for all our students.